Florida Scouting Report: Defense

The Gators are strongest on defense, but just how steady has the Florida 'D' been in the early going this season? TSD's Hunter Paniagua examines.

The Florida defense is certainly the team’s strength, but even that side of the ball has had its share of struggles this season.

The Gators were gashed defensively against Alabama last month, surrendering 645 total yards and 449 through the air. That secondary is supposed to be one of the best in the conference, and Florida made a couple of tweaks to the defense to get things right.

Florida was much better last week against Tennessee, holding the Vols to 233 total yards, with just 28 coming on the ground. Florida currently ranks No. 8 in the SEC in total defense, No. 4 in rushing defense but No. 13 in pass defense based largely on that rough game against the Tide.

The Gators do have a ton of talent on this side of the ball, and that will certainly provide a challenge to the LSU offense that’s still finding its stride. We’ll provide an in-depth scouting report on their defense, and the projected starting lineup is below.


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PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP


DE: Bryan Cox (R-So., 6-3, 260)
DT: Jon Bullard (Jr., 6-3, 270)
NT: Darious Cummings (Sr., 6-1, 305)
BUCK: Dante Fowler (Jr., 6-3, 260)
SAM: Neiron Ball (R-Sr., 6-3, 235)
MIKE: Michael Taylor (R-Sr., 6-0, 230) —OR— Jarrad Davis (So., 6-2, 225)
WILL: Antonio Morrison (Jr., 6-1, 225)
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III (So., 5-11, 195)
CB: Brian Poole (Jr., 5-10, 205)
S: Keanu Neal (So., 6-1, 205)
S: Jabari Gorman (Sr., 5-10, 185)

Key Backups: CB Marcus Maye (R-So., 6-0, 200), CB Jalen Tabor (Fr., 6-1, 195), BUCK Alex McCalister (R-So., 6-6, 245)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW


Florida has a base 3-4 formation, with that BUCK position often coming down as a fourth pass rusher. You can expect the Gators to stack the box though in more of a traditional 4-3 look with LSU likely to turn to a run-heavy attack.

That defensive line though has had some reshuffling while the Gators struggle with injury. Leon Orr, who has 14 tackles this season, is still listed as questionable with a meniscus injury after missing the Tennessee game. That moved Jon Bullard inside and thrust Bryan Cox into the starting lineup.

Bullard and Darious Cumming have been a load in the interior of that defensive front, combining for 24 tackles and four for loss. Cox is more of a pass rusher as he leads the team with three sacks.

The real star of that defense though is Dante Fowler. The Tigers must account for him on all plays. He has 19 tackles this season, including four for loss, 1.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries.

On a more positive injury note, starting MIKE backer Mike Taylor has been cleared to return after missing last week’s game with a knee bruise. In his place, the Gators moved Antonio Morrison inside. He leads the team with 32 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and the Gators will be happy to have Taylor and his 21 tackles back in the lineup. Those two combined for 22 tackles last season against LSU.

Expect to also see plenty of Jarrad Davis and Neiron Ball, who have combined for 32 tackles this season.

That Florida secondary is loaded with talent, and they’ll be playing with confidence after an improved performance last week. The Gators will likely trust their outside corners in man coverage as they attempt to bring pressure on the LSU quarterback.

Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the best corners in the country, and they’ll turn to him to limit the Tigers’ deep passing attack. Freshman Jalen Tabor made his first career start last week against Tennessee and provided a lift to that secondary. The former four-star prospect should expect a lot of playing time once again as he’s proving capable of living up to the hype.

At safety, Jabari Gorman has racked up 19 tackles this season. He might spend a bit more time in the box this week to aid in run defense, with Keanu Neal ranging deep. Neal already has three interceptions this season, and he’ll have hopes of adding to that total against either LSU quarterback.



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